Expanding SAP Runs SAP to include OnDemand Offerings: A proposal for a Project River-based DropBox/iCloud Replacement
SAP has a campaign entitled ‘SAP Runs SAP’ in which SAP Global IT uses SAP products internally and describes their experiences via blogs, videos, etc.
Our enterprise has gained its global reputation as a leader in the business applications industry for one simple reason: Before we release our solutions to our more than 176,000 worldwide clients, we first use what we have developed to help our employees effectively and efficiently address our own operational needs. In short, to manage our business and to operate as a best-run company, SAP runs SAP. [SOURCE]
‘SAP Runs SAP’ efforts focus on HANA and mobility but unfortunately very little on OnDemand offerings. By ‘OnDemand’, I mean SAP’s own OnDemand offerings (such as SalesOnDemand, ByDesign, etc) not general cloud usage. Top executives demoed SalesOnDemand at the recent Sapphire in Orlando but there has been very little indication that SAP uses these offerings internally. Some might see this absence as an indication of weakness in SAP’s cloud strategy but the problem might be more associated with matching the appropriate use case with which SAP Global IT is usually confronted to the current stage in the continuing evolution of SAP’s OnDemand offerings. SAP announcements surrounding the Sapphire in Madrid, however, might lead to an opportunity in which a requirement for SAP’s Global IT might be met by a SAP OnDemand offering.
Introducing SAP’s DropBox / iCloud Replacement
A recent Forbes blog from Eric Lai with the provocative title „SAP CIO: iCloud and DropBox Not Secure Enough, We’ll Build Our Own” swept across the virtual plain of the enterprise software-related social media like a dust storm. Since DropBox is moving into the enterprise arena, the comments of SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann appeared to question the viability of this service in this arena.
The viability of DropBox in the enterprise market or the relative merits of the service in comparison to other offerings aren’t the focus of this blog. I’m more interested in the particulars of this new SAP offering.
Note: Some may be curious why I use the word “offering” in this context. Usually, I use ‘offering’ when describing SAP products or services that are offered for external customers. Well, Bussmann is the CIO; therefore, this new DropBox-like service will be provided by Global IT to internal SAP customers (SAP LoBs, etc).
My intention to analyze this offering is made difficult by the dearth of information about this service (actually just one paragraph in the above-mentioned blog and the transcripts of the recent Twitterchat with Bussmann).
Let’s take a look at how Bussmann described this new service.
[Bussmann’s] team has already created a prototype of a document-sharing service that will be released to employees by the end of year. Based on the WebDAV standard, Bussmann says the goals are to make it as easy to use as iCloud or DropBox for both mobile devices and laptops (something SharePoint, what many companies use today, is poor at), while also providing the security only an internal, behind-the-firewall network can. [SOURCE]
The main motivation appears to be security-related:
Based on this extremely limited description, no additional knowledge of the offering or its architecture and no information regarding its timeline, I’d like to make an architectural suggestion – port the application to Announcing: Project River.
Why should this new document-sharing service be ported to River?
Caveat: I have no details about the exact responsibilities of SAP’s Global IT, so I’ll be basing my suggestions on assumptions and my experience as a consultant in similar organizations.
Note: Project River has just started as a public beta. Bussmann mentions that his service will be available at the end of 2011 for users. There might be a gap in terms of timing but a port of the application to Project River would still be a viable at a later date.
Bussmann and his team always push the term “SAP Runs SAP”. Indeed, Bussmann’s blog is titled “SAP Global IT Blog — SAP Runs SAP”. Bussmann and his team are serious about using SAP’s products (they are already big users of HANA for a variety of use cases).
I hope that this new document-sharing service is based on a cloud-based solution. A large number of SAP departments are already using the cloud, so this assumption is probably correct. Instead of setting up some new cloud environment and using some other framework, what about using Project River?
One of the benefits of the “SAP Runs SAP” campaign is that external customers gain faith in SAP products. This tendency would also be useful for SAP’s OnDemand offerings. For example, a customer or a partner might think: “if SAP Global IT uses Project River for a document sharing service, it might also be secure enough to meet my requirements as well.”
Security concerns of the public cloud
If Bussmann is wary of the security risks of the public cloud, the use of Project River would deal with this concern.
We have to remember that many of SAP’s OnDemand offerings for external customers are based on environments that are hosted by SAP – perhaps, even by Global IT teams. Thus, the hosting of the new document-sharing offering on Project River would mean that Global IT or some other SAP department that deals with the hosting would have control of the data.
Re-use of collaboration potential on Project River
One of most interesting features of DropBox is Dropbox for Teams – a fuctionality that allows for document-related sharing and other arts of collaboration. Currently, there is no mention about collaboration in Bussmann’s description of the document-sharing service. Initially, storage appears to be the main focus but as users use such services, change requests concerning collaboration are usually not far behind.
If the document-sharing service was based on Project River, then the collaborative features of this platform could also be used. Don’t forget that in the future, StreamWork will also be based on Project River. In particular, an integration with StreamWork would be ideal to meet collaboration-related feature requests. Indeed, there is already an integration between StreamWork and Box.net, a DropBox competitor. Of course, an integration between StreamWork and a document-sharing service hosted in a non-Project River environment would be possible but a deeper integration and things such as SingleSignOn (SSO) might be more difficult to implement.
Re-Use of Project River Administrative Functionality
Project River is planned to be made available for partners, SIs and other developers to create applications for end-users. An IT service – regardless of whether it is being provided for internal or external users – has certain requirements. I assume that subscription-related billing functionality (how much time a user was online, how much storage was used, etc) will also be part of Project River. Instead of recreating all this functionality, the document-sharing application could re-use this functionality and instead concentrate on the unique value proposition that it is providing the SAP LoBs.
I also assume that Project River will provide KPI/Uptime-related dashboards for applications used by external users. Internal users / application owners could also be provided this functionality.
Tight integration with SAP’s OnPremise Systems
The value of this new document-sharing service will be enhanced for business if it is integrated into SAP’s OnPremise/back-end systems. The service in isolation provides a security-related feature-set but if you extend the functionality to include integration in back-end systems, you can augment existing processes with mobile-enhanced document-sharing. For example, documents / pictures collected at a customer meeting could end up in SAP’s OnPremise CRM systems.
One of the fundamental advantages of Project River is to act as bridge between the OnDemand and OnPremise worlds – it also provides out-of-the-box functionality to meet this demand.
Extend the functionality of Project River
A Project River-based Global IT-created document-sharing service could be included in the Project River framework so that external customers might use it as well. Usually, Global IT uses external-focused SAP products for internal use cases. Who is to say that Global IT-created initially internal-focused technology couldn’t be used by external customers? The term “SAPRunsSAP” could cover both directions.
Indeed, Bussmann suggests this possibility:
Bussmann talked up the service at SAPPHIRE and says he got a strong reception from other CIOs. So strong, he says, that if things go well, the service might eventually end up being offered to SAP customers. [SOURCE]
Although this blog focuses on the new document-sharing service, many of the reasons mentioned above are relevant for other Global IT-maintained internal offerings. Project River provides an ideal platform for such services. The more Global IT services that run on Project River, the faster the platform will evolve. Such heavy usage might also lead the Global IT departments of customers to consider the platform for their own internal customers.
The balanced depiction of SAP offerings from Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe presented at the Sapphire in Madrid (see below) would then be mirrored in a ‘SAP Runs SAP’ campaign that also highlights the potential of SAP’s cloud offerings.